Published February 03, 2010
There are reports coming out of the administration that members of the alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab's family have come to the United States and, with their urging, he is cooperating with interrogators.
Maybe, but this is still no way to run a railroad. In this case we have gotten really, really lucky. But what have we missed in the six weeks since Christmas? Actionable intelligence is timely intelligence.
Al Qaeda has now had plenty of time to cover Abdulmutallab’s tracks, to move out those who attended suicide bombers school with him, to close down safe houses, bank accounts, ditch cell phones, destroy computers, etc., etc.
Interrogators should have been questioned him immediately -- his responses should have been carefully examined by a team of experts in real time, compared with what they already knew.
And then he should have been questioned again -- probed for still more details. We could have directed intelligence operatives to check out his leads, and connect dots that we may have missed. This process should have gone on for weeks and months. We could have had a shot at taking down the entire Al Qaeda Yemeni network.
If he’s talking now -- great. But the fact is, as we've sadly learned since the foiled attack over Detroit on Chistmas Day, there was no system in place, top intelligence officials were kept out of the loop, the elite team that was supposed to be formed to deal with high value suspects was not even organized (and this took place over the course of a year!) – and it still hasn’t been.
Politically, the administration has gotten lucky this time around, and at the White House they are no doubt expressing a giant "phew."
But the Obama administration continues to see terrorists as isolated extremists and lone wolfs; they continue to treat them as civilian criminals rather than enemy combatants.
And now, with out top two intelligence officials warning there will definitely be another attempted terrorist attack by July there is no indication the problem has been fixed.
Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations, where she was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. She does a weekly video-blog for FOX News, DEFCON 3 by KT. Her Web site is KTMcFarland.com.